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Introduction How Rivers Run Stories Value Of A River What We Can Do
Why It Matters
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Water is the universal solvent comprised of the most abundant elements in our solar system: hydrogen and oxygen. It dominates our planet and constitutes 2/3 of our bodies.

Water is vital to all life on Earth. Its almost magical properties make it a unique substance. For example, its thermal-density relationship means that it alone exists in all three states naturally (solid, liquid, and gas). The high specific heat of liquid water allows it to provide a much more stable environment than is found in terrestrial environments. This means that fluctuations in water temperature occur gradually and temperature extremes are smaller compared to non-aquatic habitats. These properties and many other characteristics of the water molecule essentially control the chemical and biological dynamics of rivers (Wetzel, 2001).

Understanding how rivers run enables us to better realize their value to us-socially, ecologically, and economically. We are better prepared to recognize the tradeoffs we make when we manipulate a river for our own purposes-by building a dam for power generation, or dredging for shipping, or withdrawing water for irrigation.

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